• Test Doneness Without a Meat Thermometer

    Fancy schmancy meat thermometers are cool and all, but what about those instances where you just don’t have one? Who, when they’re going camping, says, “Honey, we should bring the meat thermometer!” Who calls a friend to make sure there will be one at the next barbeque? The point is that it’s easy to test how well meat is cooked with this simple trick. All you need are two hands.

    For each level of doneness, you’ll touch a finger to your thumb. Keep your hand relaxed. Then, using the opposite hand, poke the fleshy part at the base of your thumb. Feel that? That’s how a cut of meat would feel if you poked it with your finger when it’s cooked to that point. See, easy!


    For rare, touch index finger to thumb. Do the poke test. That’s what rare meat feels like.

    For medium-rare, touch middle finger to thumb.

    For medium, touch ring finger to thumb.

    For medium-well, touch pinkie to thumb.

    Last but not least, for well-done (if you’re cooking well-done steak, we need to have a chat 🙂 ), open your hand and poke the center of your palm.

    For chicken or pork (where generally, well-done is the way to go), use the open palm test.

    Try it and let me know what you think in the comments!

    Steph Gaudreau is a certified holistic nutrition practitioner, weightlifting and mindset coach, and the author of the best-selling Performance Paleo Cookbook. Her recipes and expert advice have been featured in SELF, Outside Magazine, Elle, and Greatist. Steph loves barbells, cats, and anything Lord of the Rings. She lives in San Diego, CA.

    14 thoughts on “Test Doneness Without a Meat Thermometer

      1. Did the smiley mean you were making a joke, or serious? If you were serious, read the article again. You touch your thumb and fingers together, but the way the fingers feel is NOT the test. With your OTHER hand, poke the round, meaty part of your thumb base — the part that is really part of your hand. It will be “tougher” the farther your thumb stretches — so, soft to your index finger and much harder to your pinkie. With gradations between for the other two.
        Thus giving you a soft/firm gauge to know if your cooking meat is rare to medium-well. 🙂

    1. Hi Steph! Glad I found you. My thought is this: All my fingers feel the same! LOL

      Anyway, thanks for all the recipes!! I can’t wait to try some of them.

    2. This is very interesting however my hand are a bit tougher from work. I liked the chin, nose, forehead as someone mentioned earlier.
      How would you use this when smoking meats? Lets say a boston butt…

    3. This method isn’t accurate. (Rib eye feels different than sirloin does when it is cooked to med/rare) At the restaurants I worked at, we did poke our meat to test it, but you have to just get used to what the different cuts feel like when cooked to a certain doneness. A thermometer is the only way to be absolutely sure of doneness without cutting it open, especially for a home cook that only makes it once in a while.

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